Create Your Own YA Cover

(Via the Onions)
1 - Go to "Fake Name Generator" or click http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/

The name that appears is your author name.

2 - Go to "Random Word Generator" or click http://www.websitestyle.com/parser/randomword.shtml

The word listed under "Random Verb" is your title.

3 - Go to "FlickrCC" or click http://flickrcc.bluemountains.net/index.php

Type your title into the search box. The first photo that contains a person is your cover.

4 - Use Photoshop, Picnik, or similar to put it all together. Be sure to crop and/or zoom in.

5 - Post it to your site along with this text.
Too easy!

Not sure how I feel about being Floretta Rollins though.

And while we're at it, here's one I knocked up for Dear Swoosie:

Just kidding...


Rollergirl and Reading Rocks

Alice got rollerblades for her birthday. They hardly came off her feet for forty-eight hours. Initially unsteady, she's now zipping up and down the street. The bicycle and the scooter have both languished on the porch, but the skates are THE BEST PRESENT EVER. They seem to give her a freedom and a power that the machines can't match. Go, rollergirl, go!

And also, Shakespeare's Muse has interviewed me for Reading Rocks. Check it out to discover where the inspiration for all the names in the Tremaris books came from, how moving around as a child affected my writing, and how my website is disgracefully out of date (nb must speak to my webmeister).


My Brush With Fame

Lucky me had the privilege of attending the opening night of the Melbourne International Film Festival on Friday (thanks to my clever friend for inviting me, and David, for the tix).

I haven't been to one of these does (do's? dos? they all look wrong) for many a long year, and for some reason on arrival I was quite startled to see an actual red carpet and lots of famous people being photographed. At least I assume they were famous because I didn't recognise most of them. However I did see John Safran and Derryn Hinch so that was a thrill.

Later on (having been ushered down the plebs' section of the red carpet, not past the photographers) the most exciting event of the evening occurred: Sandra and I were coming out of the toilets, chatting away as you do, and barrelled straight into Jose Ramos-Horta, President of East Timor, and his entourage, including a bodyguard with very impressive gold braid looped all over him and a don't-mess-with-me hat.

President Ramos-Horta was in attendance because the Opening Night film was Balibo, the true story of the murder of six Australian journalists during the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia in 1975. It was a harrowing story, all the more so because we knew that members of the journalists' families were in the audience, as well as many East Timorese who suffered terribly during the years of Indonesian rule. It must have been almost unbearable to watch.

It seemed massively inappropriate to file out of the film and into the huge opening night festival party, with footage of the real Greg Shackleton (one of the journalists) from 1975 flickering on a big screen. However the food was fabulous and the crowd certainly glittered and a good time seemed to be had by all.

I hope I can make it to at least one more session of the Festival; I want to take Alice to Coraline.


The Vanished Wilderness of Childhood

"Art is a form of exploration, of sailing off into the unknown alone, heading for those unmarked places on the map. If children are not permitted—not taught—to be adventurers and explorers as children, what will become of the world of adventure, of stories, of literature itself?"

Michael Chabon mourns the loss of freedom for today's over-protected children in a wonderful article for the New York Review of Books. Read the whole thing here.

This chimes with thoughts that have been bothering me a lot lately, not just as a author struggling to make space for fictional children to have adventures, but as a mother who would love her children to grow up independent, resilient and confident in their world. (See also Free Range Kids.)

We're lucky that our local school is literally over our back fence; Alice can, and sometimes does, walk home around the corner alone. But the last time she did it, she was stopped and questioned by a (no doubt well-meaning) teacher. Alice is small for her age, but she is in Grade 2, and she has only to walk round the corner of the block; there are no roads to cross. She had asked to walk home by herself. She was so proud of her independence, and as a solitary child, relished the few minutes of private time between school and home.

But since she was stopped and interrogated, she hasn't walked home alone; she wants me to walk her home every day. This tiny morsel of freedom and achievement has been spoiled for her, and that makes me so sad.


Weather Tragic

Now that I've officially outed myself as a meteorological obsessive, I may as well talk about the seasons again.

According to our Aboriginal calendar, we are now well into pre-spring. Indeed, today feels positively spring-like, no "pre" about it. Yesterday was warm. I heard birds chattering before sunrise this morning. The wattles, the native hibiscus with its big soft purple flowers, the correas and the gums are in full flower, and the gum trees are abuzz with bees and festooned with rainbow lorikeets after the blossom. Life is stirring; there are new shoots and fringes of fresh green growth. The worst of winter is behind us, and the energy for new projects is in the air. Hooray!


This Made Me Laugh So Hard

(I still love you, boys.)

First Lines

Everyone else is doing it...

The Singer of All Songs
Long before sunrise, even before the first faint blush of gold had touched the snowy peaks that ringed the valley of Antaris, the bells began to peal.

The Waterless Sea
Dawn had not yet broken over the Straits of Firthana.
(Uh-oh, I see a theme emerging here already...)

The Tenth Power
The autumn night was chilly, and the skies over Antaris were black.
(Yep, I sure do love my weather.)

The Taste of Lightning
The Palace clocks were striking midnight and distant thunder growled from an early summer storm.
(Okay, this is just embarrassing now.)

Always Mackenzie
"We're doomed."
(Hooray! That's better!)

Winter of Grace
The bus was packed, but more and more people kept piling on: mothers with strollers, old people in cardigans, dads with babies strapped to their chests, women in suits, boys in caps.
(Yeah, yeah, but is it raining? It is winter, after all.)

Cicada Summer
Eloise floated on a sea of red and orange swirls.
(But we already know it's summer, which is the main thing.)

Dear Swoosie (I bags this cos I happened to write the first chapter)
On the day of the hundredth birthday fair, I arrived at the school first thing to set up my stall.

Crow Country (possibly)
The crow wheeled high in the clear winter sky.
(And here we go again...)

How excruciating! At least I've learned something from this exercise, which is that my weather obsession is way out of hand. Editors, please note!! I need help!


Is It Just Me...?

Once upon a time I used to get funny looks in cafes for requesting tomato sauce with my French toast. Now I don't even bother.

When I was growing up, French toast (or eggy bread, as it's sometimes known at our house) was a savoury food, served with bacon as a weekend lunch. It wasn't a bloody dessert, dusted with cinnamon sugar and drowned in maple syrup (and still, weirdly, served with bacon!) I understand the whole sweet/salty thing but it's gone WAY TOO FAR in favour of the sweet stuff.

My favourite brunch cafe meal -- ruined.


A Wonderful Place To Visit...

I've nearly finished China Mieville's Un Lun Dun. It's taken quite a while to get through, which shouldn't, of itself, be taken as a criticism (it's quite fat). There's lots to admire in this book, and I do admire it greatly. It's incredibly inventive, dazzlingly so, and the central conceit is brilliant -- that there exists a kind of mirror London, the "abcity" UnLundun, made up of scraps and discards from the other place. This is the place broken umbrellas, obsolete computers and lost socks go. The umbrellas become, naturally, unbrellas, under the command of Brokkenbroll, the Unbrellissimo. There are characters composed of schools of fish, who wear suits of words and use their heads for pincushions, who are half-ghost, half-human, and best of all, the binja -- martial arts-fighting rubbish bins. There is a reluctant heroine, Deeba, the UnChosen, who has to save the city from its deadly enemy, Smog, and its minions, the stink-junkies and smombies. The story rollicks along at tremendous speed, with fresh explosions of invention on every page. And he's done all his own illustrations, damn his gifted hide!


UnLundun falls into the category of books for kids that stretch your imagination in unexpected directions, that play hard with words and ideas -- like The Phantom Tollbooth and Alice in Wonderland. And I must confess that much as I enjoyed and admired those books, I didn't fall in love with them either. Maybe the pace is a shade too hectic. The cataract of wondrous inventions almost drowns you.

But the books that I loved most as a child were the ones that I could imagine living inside, taking my place beside the characters, becoming their friends. UnLundun is a fabulous place to spend some time, but I can't imagine living there.


Between Books

I don't have anything to write at the moment.

It feels weird. I hadn't planned to do much this year, because I knew that Evie being at kinder would chop up my days and not give me much opportunity for working. I'd vaguely supposed that I might be spending this time editing and rewriting Crow Country, but it hasn't come back to me yet. There was also the delightful frenzy of Swoosie, which definitely wasn't planned. And yet now I find myself strangely idle.

I am mulling over and researching the New Guinea book, but I'm nowhere near ready to start actually writing it. (The characters are quite clear, but I don't know what's going to happen to them yet.) And there is the very faint stirring of a new fantasy at the back of my mind, which isn't even an idea yet. And it's just as well I don't have anything pressing, because there have been school holidays and sick kids, and maybe building work soon, and it would be awful to have a deadline and no chance to work.

But then I remember that it was in one of these peculiar, unsettled phases that I began to write Singer of All Songs, just for something to do. And I guess that worked out okay.

(I found an online review today that described Singer as "under-rated." Oh, well, better than being over-rated, I suppose!)



We are so lucky to have friends whose family has a beach house. We walked in the rain, built sand bridges (and had to rush home for hot baths), played Guess Who? and Scrabble and Cluedo, ate tacos and pizza and fish and chips, read books and magazines and the Saturday paper, went to bed late, and played wizzy-dizzy in the enormous living-room.

And thanks to the vagaries of weather and geography, there was an almost permanent rainbow outside the window all weekend. Honestly! Which says it all, really.


Down the Drain

I'm not sure why, but our household hasn't had any problem meeting the 155 litres per person per day target set by the state government. Our total comes in closer to 50 litres each than 150. It's not that we do anything amazing or bathe in our own urine or anything -- Michael and the girls have baths, not showers, which should drink up heaps of our allowance. We do use last night's bath water to flush the toilet in the morning, which must help, and we don't flush unless we have to, so that must help too. We don't water the garden except with laundry grey water or from the tank, but we hardly use the tank water either.

But I did get one clue yesterday when I did a load of washing. Because there were some vomity clothes in there (you don't want to know), I decided to use the 60 degree cycle instead of the rapid setting I normally use. Well! Instead of taking half an hour, the machine was churning away for about two hours (maybe longer, I lost track), and instead of spewing out one and half rubbish bins full of grey water, I reckon about four and a half bins worth came out! I was bucketing all afternoon.

So maybe, entirely unintentionally, we've been saving water on washing. I made a pact with myself not to do washing two days in a row, perhaps that's helped too, but I was just appalled at the amount of water that came out of that machine. It's a front loader, too, aren't they supposed to be more efficient?? I dread to think what a normal top loader must be using.

Next step -- washing clothes in the bathwater! No, wait -- showering with our clothes on!